Issue 25: Disappearances of Uyghur Religious Students

World Uyghur Congress, 9 June 2018

Uyghur students studying religion, especially Islam, in foreign university are particularly vulnerable to forced extradition, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention.

On July 1st, 2017, Egyptian police and security forces started to round up Uyghurs in Egypt. Over 200 individuals, the majority of them being students at the al-Azhar University, were arbitrarily detained. They were studying Islam and theology at the university.

At least 22 Uyghur students were forcibly deported from Egypt as 12 were returned on July 6thfrom the Cairo airport while attempting to flee to Turkey according to the Egyptian Commission of Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), and another 10 were returned between July 11 and 14, as reported by Amnesty International. There has been no information about their whereabouts or well-being since their return. The fate of the others who were detained in Egypt is unclear.

Chinese authorities have reportedly been compelling Uyghur students enrolled abroad, especially those studying Islamc, to return to China since early 2017. Many Uyghur students have chosen to return to China voluntarily or because their families have been threatened with imprisonment and harassment. Reports indicate that a number of those who returned voluntarily were arrested upon arrival and sent to ‘re-education’ camps.

Deportation of individuals to a country where they may face torture or mistreatment stands in flagrant violation of international law and the principle of non-refoulement under the Refugee Convention, but the international community has remained largely silent.